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Volume 51 / Social Sciences


South America: Highlands

ROGER RASNAKE, Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

SINCE OUR LAST CONTRIBUTION TO HLAS 49, Andean ethnology has witnessed an impressive growth in the number of new publications. One encounters considerable emphasis on the Andean economy (about one-third of the entries can be classified in that category) as well as a continuing interest in topics related to ritual practices, myth, and religious organization in general (approximately a quarter of the works choose these areas as their focus of investigation). As has also been true in the past, there is a wide range of quality and scholarship in the works reviewed, from works which will stand as major contributions to Andean studies, to other articles and books of lesser significance.

Perhaps most notable in our review of this period of work is the publication of a series of important monographs of high quality on the peoples of the Andean highlands; many represent the culmination of years of research in Andean communities. The 1980s have ended with a veritable flood of fine studies which greatly augment and synthesize the research on Andean communities and their relations with the wider society.

Several monographs bear special mention. Catherine Allen's The hold life has (item bi 89014775) is a sensitive analysis of the cultural life of the people of Sonco, a Cusco community which has been the object of Allen's study for some 15 years. Allen examines the significance for Sonco runa of coca leaf, which for them is a rich, highly complex symbol which unites concepts of place, social order, and cosmos. Through the use of oral tradition, the people of Sonco situate themselves in the physical and social world around them and reconstruct their meaning world in ritual. Michael Sallnow's Pilgrims of the Andes (item bi 90011669) continues the theme of cultural analysis through the study of the importance of religious pilgrimage to the Andean peasants of southern Cusco, especially the journey made to Quyllur Rit'i. Sallnow examines the complex interrelationships of ethnic identity and religious practice, and sketches the evolution of these in present-day rural Peru. Rasnake's Domination and cultural resistance (item bi 89003616) relates the ethnic history of an ayllu in southern Bolivia, the Yura, to their present situation of subordination to the wider society. The author analyzes the political and symbolic means by which the political authorities of the Yura, through festival sponsorship, create (and re-create) a sense of ethnic identity which is rooted in their physical world and which serves as an alternative to the lower-class status that the national culture would assign them.

Looking at economic themes, Jane Collins' Unseasonal migrations (item bi 89014774) traces the disadvantageous evolution of market participation that Aymara-speaking peasants of the Lake Titicaca area of Peru have undergone, and examines the strategies they have adopted including the exploitation of distant coffee groves on the eastern slopes of the Andes which severely tax their labor resources and which trade short-term economic gains for a long-term deterioration of the resource base, especially in the montaña coffee groves. Florence Babb, in Between field and cooking pot, (item bi 90011597) examines the situation of marketwomen in Huarás over the past decade. She analyzes both the social structure of marketing and the small economic margins and low capital investments which characterize these merchants' activities. Lesley Gill's Peasants, entrepreneurs, and social change (item bi 90011324) studies the growth of colonization zones in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, looking at the movement of highlanders to the smallholder colonies in the area as well as at the expansion of the competing agribusiness estates which have developed with international development financing. Rodrigo Sánchez, in his Organización andina, drama y posibilidad (item bi 88000360) continues his work on the signficance of Andean patterns of organization and labor mobilization and their complementary relationship with the capitalist market economy.

Also notable in this biennium is the increasing interest in environmental issues. Here, Browman's edited collection, Arid land use strategies and risk management in the Andes (item bi 88000357) is perhaps the major contribution in this period. Collins' monograph mentioned above and Brownrigg's Al futuro desde la experiencia (item bi 88000359) also merit mention. As we enter the 1990s with an ever growing concern about the environmental effects of traditional farming practices and development schemes, and with an increasing consciousness of the need to devise ways to lessen the crushing poverty which afflicts the great majority of Andean peoples, these economic and environmental concerns require much greater attention on the part of academics and practitioners.

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